Last Update: 09 September 2012

Saving the Wrecks

Every diver is very aware of the potential risks connected to diving a wreck. However, equally significant threats exist to wrecks from diving activities.

The very execution of a dive on a wreck can cause detriment to the integrity, quality and stability of the structure, which can diminish the safety of the wreck itself.
  • Mooring on the Hebat Allah
  • mooring on the Hebat Allah_2
  • Mooring on the Hebat Allah_ surface
  • mooring on the Hebat Allah_descent

Integrity of the wreck
Improper mooring and anchoring can lead to destruction and collapse of part of the structure of the wreck.  The impact of mooring directly onto a wreck can be heightened by local environmental conditions, such as a strong current and wind.  A liveaboard diving vessel can weigh up to 400tonnes – the weight of this placed directly onto the superstructure of a decomposing wreck can have terrible consequences!

Quality of the wreck
The quality of a wreck depends on both its biological and historical attributes.  The movement of divers, especially if there isn’t much elbowroom, can cause damage to the wreck itself and to the marine life who have found shelter and home within the structure.  Although accidental, direct hits (which might break corals or cause matter to fall down from the wreck’s wall) or side effects, such as the alteration of sedimentation processes taking place within the wreck can alter life on the artificial reef dramatically.

Intentional removal of parts, accessories or elements of the wreck is a crime: relic or souvenir hunting is a behaviour that is absolutely not acceptable and disapproved by the entire diving community.

Stability of the wreck
Divers must breathe underwater to survive.  However, the constant exhalation of air bubbles creates an accumulation of air inside the wreck which acts as a catalyst to the erosion/corrosion process.  Eventually, this will cause massive internal damage.  

We have witnessed for too long the long-term effects of an unprecedented level of use on the S.S. Thistlegorm and many other wrecks in the Red Sea.  HEPCA undertook a series of actions and proposed a proper preservation management system to prevent Egypt from losing these valuable wrecks.  So far, HEPCA has been moving in parallel directions: conservation interventions on the wrecks, creation of valuable alternatives to decrease the pressure on those very popular dive sites and promotion of education and awareness.

S.S. Thistlegorm and Rosalie Moller

The S.S. Thistlegorm and the Rosalie Moller have been targeted with dedicated intervention in 2007 and 2008, respectively.  Conservation work on the former, probably the most famous wreck in Red Sea, stirred up a hornet’s nest that resulted in huge hype and extended exposure of the issue in international diving media: you can find out more this campaign in the ‘Success stories’ page.

Despite the initial discontent generated, all the interventions made on the wrecks were considered as urgent and necessary and for this reason HEPCA continued.  The eventual situation was a collective commitment, with diving centres offering help, consult and provide facilities to make the works happen. 

The conservation operation commenced with a detailed assessment of the status of the wreck: including its structure, position and inclination but also its popularity and accessibility. Following this, targeted action plans were promoted, appropriate mooring systems were installed and air-escape outlets strategically drilled into the wreck.  Precise information was given to the operators concerning the proper use of the mooring lines whose efficiency plays a major role in the success of the operation.

Read more about the success of these two wrecks in our success stories section.

M/V Hebat Allah

HEPCA got involved in another project which might be considered related to the wreck conservation strategy: the 51m M/V Hebat Allah was intentionally sunk in 2004 and opened as the first and only artificial reef dive site in the Red Sea for technical divers in 2005. HEPCA, together with Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Egypt and Colona Divers secured the wreck in 2009 with the installation of mooring lines.

The wreck offers the unique scientific opportunity to conduct research on reef growth on an artificial substratum and on marine life diversity at depths greater than 35m. Initial assessments recorded extensive fish life (including groupers and lionfish), and a poor coral coverage likely to be due to the naturally slow growth rate of the organisms, the depth of the wreck and its distance from an already established coral reef.  HEPCA and GUE, with the support of Colona Divers, are intending to dive the Hebat Allah frequently and regularly to maintain and monitor the reef.

Resources

Document

SS Thistlegorm Closed for Conservation

HEPCA message about the temporary close-down of the SS Thistlegorm for conservation measures (Sept 2007)

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Document

SS Thistlegorm Update on Closure

HEPCA update on the close-down of SS Thistlegorm (Nov 2007)

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Document

Conservation work started on SS Thistlegorm

HEPCA update about the ongoing conservation work on SS Thistlegorm (Dec 2007)

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Document

SS Thistlegorm reopens for diving

HEPCA update about the reopening of and accomplishments on SS Thistlegorm (Dec 2007)

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PDF

Thistlegorm Facelift

Divemagazine article about the conservation work HEPCA is planning to undertake on SS Thistlegorm (Nov 2007)

( 137.88 KB )
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HEPCA defends Thistlegorm closure

Divemagazine article about HEPCA's justification to temporary close SS Thistlegorm and the fallen mast of "Rosalie Moller" (Jan 2008)

( 98.71 KB )
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Thistlegorm reopens with new mooring lines in place

Divemagazine article about the reopening of SS Thistlegorm and the conservation work that has been done by HEPCA on the wreck (Feb 2008)

( 105.09 KB )
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HEPCA warning over Thistlegorm mooring lines

Divemagazine article about apparent problems with the mooring buoy on SS Thistlegorm and HEPCA's advice for the dive operators (Mar 2008)

( 95.85 KB )
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HEPCA's Amr Ali fires broadside over wrecks

Diver article about HEPCA's opinion on the mooring work on Thistlegorm and the fallen mast of Rosalie Moller (Jan 2008)

( 101.94 KB )
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Relief for the Thistlegorm

Diver article about the reopening of SS Thistlegorm (Feb 2008)

( 68.37 KB )
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HEPCA's warning to Thistlegorm offenders

Diver article about HEPCA's statement to misbehaviour of diving operators on Thistlegorm (Mar 2008)

( 91.1 KB )
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The Thistlegorm new and improved

SportDiver article about HEPCA's work on the SS Thistlegorm (Feb 2008)

( 454.79 KB )
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So what went adrift with the Thistlegorm project? _ Embarrassed Emperor pledges good works

Diver article about HEPCA's explanation of the Thistlegorm mooring buoy system _ Diver article about Emperor Divers appointed as "Violators of the month"

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Thistlegorm moorings improved

Diver article about am additional touch-up of the mooring system on SS Thistlegorm (Jun 2008)

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Saving Red Sea wrecks

Scubadiving article about HEPCA's conservation work on the SS Thistlegorm (Apr 2008)

( 1.48 MB )